Australia: Muslim Dress Code Backlash

Last week while we were enjoying a few days away from the blogosphere, a disturbing debate erupted about swimming costumes of all things. No prizes for guessing that multi-cultural tensions would be involved. The controversy started in a Melbourne suburb:

DANDENONG’S mayor has called on residents to embrace a Muslim event at which people will be forced to cover up.

The event, to be held after hours at the public Dandenong Oasis pool on August 21, 2011, will require all participants older than 10 to follow a dress code of knee-length shorts and T-shirts.

Women and men attending the event, aimed at diverse backgrounds, will be required to cover their torsos, extending to the upper arms and from waist to knee.
Mayor defends Dandenong pool cover-up order

Julie Joy Clarke of Anything but human is concerned about the media role in beating up the reaction:

Rather than smoothing the waters between different religious groups, yet another wave of discontent has been created through media misinformation.

Perhaps she had Melbourne's Herald Sun in mind:

A PLAN to force families to cover up to avoid offending Muslims at a public event has triggered furious debate.

An overwhelming 94 per cent of readers disagree with the legal ruling approving the contentious ban during next year's Ramadan.

They seem to know their audience. The first comment (of 773 so far) on this story by Stevo of melb typifies the negative reaction:

so starts the islamisation of Australian society. Soon it will be a request to have Sharia courts run parallel to the Australian legal system like now exists in the UK. I am all for having request for other peoples rights/beliefs, but the bottom line is Muslims need to accept they come to a non-Islamic country and while free to practice their religion, they should accept it can't be the same as in an Islamic country.
Cover up for pool event during next year's Ramadan

Julie Joy's commonsense view:

…if you find the idea of covering up whilst swimming ~ and I certainly do, then don't attend, there are thousands of hours of swimming time available to you

Despite this advice, Dan Zaremba at Australian Islamist Monitor, ‘Islam Under Scrutiny’, exposes his naked truth:

Equal opportunity for Muslims means LESS equal opportunity for you and this means that the Sharia based rules of dhimmitude are already being implemented in Australia.

And this is how Sharia creeps in. SLowly at first, then it gains momentum and then, before we know it we have to start penalizing non-Muslims for not following rules imposed on us by the Muslim PATH.
No naked flesh at the Dandenong Oasis pool

Apparently one member of the Islamic Council Victoria,Shereen Hassan, has expressed concerns:

I appreciate the efforts of the YMCA to promote goodwill among Muslims and non-Muslims. My concern is that this event will cause disharmony as already evidenced over the last few days by the public outcry.

The ABC TV's Stateline program canvassed this reaction and other issues with Matt Feutrill, Chief Operating Officer of the YMCA, a co-sponsor of the event.

JOSEPHINE CAFAGNA: Were you taken aback at the public response?

MATT FEUTRILL: We are because we think this is representation of modern Australia and our inclusive – our inclusive, embracing, inclusive mixed cultural diversity within our communities is important. We know that immigration to Australia is going to continue to be important to our future productivity. We know we need to continue to reach out and look at new ways of living in harmony together.
Pool ruling justified (Video & Transcript)

Millsie presents a lengthy analysis of the use of comments on a radio station blog. He focuses on the practice of trolling on Blah Blah Blah, ‘Animation, Comic Books and Other Stuff’. He attacks the manners of one commenter who posted, “Can’t believe the rudeness of these pple. I am Australian and I feel like a foreigner in my own country”:

The rudeness of the people posting Islamophobic comments? No, the rudeness of Muslim women who expect people to adhere to a dress code at a private event.

He also questions whether the radio station should be held accountable:

Could 3AW be held responsible for the comments that have been allowed to be posted on their page? Especially if they are found to be offensive.
Islamophobia & Trolling On The 3AW Comments Page

A final word from Matt Feutrill:

We've been working with the women's only swim group for the past two years in the city of Dandenong. It is a multi-faith group, multi-nationalities, multi-disabilities who feel comfortable swimming together. This Ramadan, because there are members of the Muslim community, the members felt it was such a rewards experience to share the celebration of Ramadan together that they would like to extend next year, that session, as a one-off to their broader family to join in, to join with this group of people of mixed faiths, mixed nationality, to enjoy the celebration of Ramadan.
Pool ruling justified

This author might just go along next year to enjoy their hospitality. Hope it's a heated pool, since it's winter.

Photo of the Muslim swimwear is from the Flickr page of Foxtongue, used under CC License Attribution 2.0 Generic.


  • Sam

    Surely the issue here is the forced veiling of women? Why is it ok for Muslim women to be told what to wear?

  • C Anon

    On a separate note, I would have thought wearing flappy clothing is quite dangerous for any weak swimmer – it makes it harder to swim and drags you down? In many French campsites, you must wear speedos in alot of their pools, not trunks – claiming the danger of the watervents sucking in the fabric, as well as for hygiene reasons (sweaty material etc.).

    I realise this issue is not the point of your article, but wanted to share my thoughts.

    • Sam

      Definitely, it’s important not to use a double standard. Some people might point at scuba divers as an example of head to toe coverings for being in the water, but I think that’s clearly a separate issue.

  • Tony Bryant

    It isn’t much more than 100 years ago that in the UK, Europe and the US, women could only bath from the privacy of `bathing boxes’, partially submerged at the water’s edge, so that the only view of them entering the water (fully clothed) was from the seagulls out at sea.
    (Queen) Victoria’s values have ebbed somewhat in the century that has followed, but the organisers of this event are only asking for partial covering up, and only in an attempt to make the Muslims attending feel that they fit in and can enjoy what sounds like a great opportunity for comunity engagement and social harmonising.
    It is most unlikely that this event will be a trigger for the introduction of Sharia Law in Australia, as some of the more radical responses quoted seem to be suggesting.

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